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Exploring nanotechnology

An Indian microbiologist is trying to use nanotechnology to help identify an opportunistic pathogen that colonises recto-vaginal areas in up to 50 per cent of women worldwide and causes several life-threatening diseases in infants. Atul Kumar Johri, Associate Professor at JNU’s School of Life Sciences in New Delhi, is keen to develop a mechanism to identify Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria that cause pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis in newborns and is responsible for significant morbidity in pregnant women and the elderly.

Dr. Johri along with scientists from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia is working on a project to make use of nanotechnology for rapid, more sensitive as well as efficient detection of the GBS bacteria in pregnant women.

“In the U.S., the UK and France, there is a mandatory test for detection of GBS in pregnant women between 35-37 weeks of their pregnancy. If the bacteria are detected in their samples, four hours before the birth of the child penicillin shots are given to the women through intravenous injections so that they can prevent the bacteria from infecting the baby and causing pneumonia and meningitis,” informs Dr. Johri.

In India, he claims, there is no such test or even much knowledge about the existence and prevention of GBS. The fact that a large number of childbirths in the country happen outside the health centres is another cause for worry, he adds.

“Timely detection of GBS can save a lot of babies in India. The problem is that in India, common people are not even aware of such a micro-organism, diseases that it causes, and that it is so easily preventable. GBS has nine serotypes. In India, Type I-A and Type III are predominant. After they made the test mandatory, the number of children getting infected with such diseases in the Western countries has come down significantly,” adds Dr. Johri.

He is also working with the Australian researchers to develop one universal vaccine for the GBS.

Dr. Johri had collected data on the GBS serotypes prevalent in the National Capital Region of Delhi that he presented during a conference at Lisbon in 2006.

Dr. Latif Zafar Jilani, a lecturer with the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Aligarh Muslim University, has been elected a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Dr. Jilani obtained his MBBS and MS Orthopaedics degrees from AMU .The membership diploma will be awarded to him at the annual convocation of the Royal College to be held next year.

Meanwhile, on Republic Day this week AMU will felicitate eminent teachers and talented students who have made remarkable achievements in 2007. Vice-Chancellor P. K. Abdul Azis will felicitate them.

The Institute of Clinical Research (India) has invited applications for one-year (part-time) post-graduate diploma in Clinical Trial Management. The course begins this February at ICRI centres in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. Students will be selected on the basis of an entrance examination and an interview.

The prospectus can be obtained from the Institute on all working days between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Details can also be sourced by writing to enquiry@icriindia.com.

IIT-Bombay is celebrating its golden jubilee year from September 2007 to March 2009. As part of the celebrations, the institution this past weekend announced its National Outreach Programme for its Alumni Association in the Capital. The programme is aimed at creating awareness about the activities planned for the year.

Parul Sharma

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